Just watching the gruelling work that went into pre-season training at Wigan Warriors’ media day on Monday was enough to work up a sweat.
Yo-yo testing and wrestling sessions aside, iron was being pumped left, right and centre. We were informed that England starlet Tyler Dupree can bench press up to 175kg, and comfortably does over 20 reps at 100kg.
For context, in old change, 175 kg is just over 27 and a half stones. Those who grew up in the late 90’s and 2000’s will know that 175kg is also more than the weight of WWE’s Big Show, dubbed ‘The world’s largest athlete’ during his time in the ring.
A more modern reference point would be that 175kg also just under one and a half Patrick Mago’s. Dupree’s team-mate Mago – we’d like to point out – looked incredibly lean, and in truth we’re not sure how anyone stops him when he’s at full pelt. Mesmerising.
At a very healthy 120kg, as we were informed by the club’s staff, he’s the heaviest in the Warriors camp. So, how do Mago and his team-mates get the fuel they need to be able to put in such high-energy efforts day in, day out?
Inside the diet of Wigan Warriors powerhouse Patrick Mago and his team-mates
Mago himself spoke to Love Rugby League just a few minutes after doing the yo-yo test. You might imagine he’d be out of breath or needing to take a break for a little while. He wasn’t and didn’t, none of them were.
In fact, we were probably more out of breath cutting across the running track which the backs were doing the yo-yo test on between bleeps than any of the forwards who’d completed their day’s work. They are all genuine monsters, in the best possible way.
The 29-year-old told us: “I’ve been working real hard with the nutritionist here, Daz Marsh, and all of the strength and conditioning coaches.
“We train long days, we’re in doing gym and then field sessions, and we just get our food in-between. My breakfast, lunch and even dinner sometimes, they’re all pretty much covered here by the club. It will usually consist of eggs, bacon, toast in the morning and then it can differ at lunch.
“They always try to give me a lot of protein and keep me off the carbs as much as they can. A big boy like me can’t really afford to eat the carbs, and be able to get it off, but we’ve got a good balance of where they want my nutrition to be at.
“We know what I need to do to be in my best shape, and the shape that helps me during the games. I couldn’t give you an exact number on calories or whatever, but I just go off what the club give me.
“We do a lot of training, and we need to take a lot more protein in, the stuff that helps us get moving out on the field again. They take care of me in that department.
“We use supplements that the club give us, the MyProtein stuff and the Whey stuff. That really helps me out and I try to take that after gym sessions, after games and even in smoothies that I sometimes will have at home. I take as much as I can when I can, after training is usually the best time.”
Making us feel better about the ‘fuel’ us normal humans put in our bodies, we’re sure, Mago did admit: “Usually after games, it’s hard to eat straight away.
“Some games, if we’re kicking off at 8pm, we won’t get out of the stadium till like nearly midnight. You always try to eat good, and I do that during the week and leading up to gameday, but post-game I allow myself a cheat meal.
“For me, it’s usually a Maccas (McDonald’s) or a KFC. I love some fried chicken, but for me the next day it’s straight back on to routine and trying to get good meals in again.”
Wigan’s head chef discusses fuelling Super League champions every day
The man in charge of what Mago and his team-mates eat is the club’s head chef Stuart Robinson, a lifelong Cherry and Whites fan with vast experience in the industry.
Robinson – like all at Robin Park – welcomed the media with open arms on Monday, providing lunch for all of us as well as players and club staff.
He told Love Rugby League: “Pre-season is a lot more difficult compared to in-season. We look after the lads more on an individual basis, but nutritionally, I take direction from the head nutritionist.
“We’ll sit down every Thursday and have a meeting, go through what the week ahead looks like, which players need to lose weight or gain it. We’ve got a handful of lads here who are on carnivore diets, so we cater for them separately as well.
“In-season, the lads will normally have the same sort of thing. Each player will drift in and out with certain degrees of proteins or carbohydrates, but that really boils down to Daz (nutritionist). We’ll speak daily, if not hourly!
“He’ll come to me, and I write a menu, then we clarify that between each other with Ian Bentley (Head of Performance) and Tom Fitzpatrick (Strength & Conditioning Coach).
“Once collectively we give the thumbs up, we go ahead with it and that’s on a week-to-week basis. We put the menu up on the TV screens around the room so the lads have got it on a loop, in their mind about what they’re eating.
“We get a lot of feedback from the lads on what they want really, see what they like and what they don’t like. They’re an honest bunch of lads who will give you feedback, and if they don’t like it, then it doesn’t get a permanent place on the menu.
“We build up a diary of what they like and what they don’t like.”
‘You’re not just a number here, you’re not just an employee, you’re part of something special’
It was clear to see how much the work of Robinson and his team was appreciated by all at the Warriors’ training base. Every single player – and member of staff – came back up to the canteen after grabbing a quick shower post-training for their lunch to end the day.
There weren’t many plates that hadn’t been cleared by the time we’d finished our portion of peanut butter chicken curry, rice and tenderstem broccoli, and let us tell you, that comes as no surprise.
The feeling is very much mutual between Robinson and the players, with the chef adding: “Coming into the club, I’ve been a Wigan rugby league fan since I was two or three years old, and I was nervous.
“I was like a rabbit in the headlights, but from day one, they all just make you feel welcome. They make you feel part of it. You’re not just a number here, you’re not just an employee, you’re part of something special.
“You wake up every day and feel like that every day.”
Robinson added: “We look at the lads backgrounds as well when preparing our menus. We look at integrating foods players may eat at home into our menu here, whatever their background.
“That way, it gives the lads who have come from Wigan with real basic English food some culture lessons!
“We’ve got one or two lads who love cooking too. Byrney (Liam Byrne) is one of those, he’s really into it and he’s said to me he wouldn’t have minded being a chef if he wasn’t in rugby.
“Me and Paddy (Mago) have got a good relationship as well, I’ve been up to his house and cooked for him when he was injured. We made sure he was fed and looked after.
“There are certain lads who need that bit of extra care and attention putting into their diets, and we’re happy to suffice. It can get difficult on a daily basis, but coming from a background of working in restaurants, it’s not that challenging compared to that.
“There’s not a day goes by that I don’t look forward to coming into work. That may not be the case if I worked at another club given my affiliation to this one, but it’s a good feeling and Matty (Peet, head coach) is really keen on that.
“He’s brought a real family feel to the club, and that – for me – just works well.”